Alternate Title

Temperature Variability in a Subtropical Estuary and Implications for Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis, a Cold-Sensitive Fish


Variability in winter water temperature was compared among three habitat types (estuary, river, canal) in a subtropical estuarine system to explore how it might affect site selection and survival of a cold-sensitive fish, Common Snook Centropomus undecimalis. The study was conducted during three winters (2008–2010); a rapid cooling event occurred during the first winter, mild temperatures the second, and an extreme cold event in the third (an 80-yr event). During the extreme cold event in January 2010, catastrophic fish mortality occurred throughout the region that resulted in the emergency closure of the Common Snook recreational fishery. Over the entire studied estuarine system, dead Common Snook were reported at 43 sites; 26 of the sites were large fish kills consisting of 100–2,000 individuals. The distribution of mortality sites was widespread, although most were located in the estuary proper (n = 39), with only several in rivers and canals (n = 4). Temperature loggers recorded similar water temperatures among habitat types (estuary, river, canal), except during short periods (~3 d; up to 2°C) after cold fronts; this indicates that fish have distinct time constraints if searching for warmer water sites. During the short periods after cold fronts, canal water temperatures were the warmest and most stable, whereas the river and estuary temperature rankings varied.